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Diplomacy Watch: Can aid package  overcome ‘Ukraine fatigue’?

As support wanes, President to combine funding for Kyiv with money for Israel, more.

Reporting | QiOSK

President Joe Biden told the nation on Thursday night that he was planning to submit a request to Congress for an aid package that will include funding for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and border security.

“It’s a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations,” Biden said.

According to the Associated Press' Seung Min Kim, "the supplemental request will include $60 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, $10 billion for humanitarian efforts, $14 billion for managing U.S.-Mexico border and fighting fentanyl trafficking and $7 billion for Indo-Pacific." The request is expected to be submitted on Friday.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan had confirmed these plans over the weekend.

“The President has made clear that he is going to go to Congress with a package of funding for Ukraine as well as continued support for Israel,” Sullivan said during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation. “You can expect intensive engagement with Congress this very week, as we work on such a package and seek to secure bipartisan support for it.”

The idea of such a proposal — which reports have indicated will also include aid for Taiwan and funding for border security — has been floating around in the weeks since House Republicans decided to strip $300 million in security assistance for Kyiv in the Defense Department appropriations bill, in the latest sign that the GOP is growing increasingly skeptical about funding Ukraine’s war effort.

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill have been critical of the idea, but earlier reporting said that the administration was looking to “jam” these members, anticipating that Republicans would ultimately not oppose a package that included funding for three of the party’s policy priorities.

Hesitant Republicans in Washington are not the only reason that Biden and his administration may feel like they have to pass the next tranche of aid quickly.

As the Times reported earlier this week, some in Washington and European capitals fear that support for Ukraine may have peaked. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed concern that the war in the Middle East may divert attention away from his country’s effort.

“But even before the war in the Mideast began last week, there was a strong sense in Europe, watching Washington, that the world had reached ‘peak Ukraine,’”reports the Times, adding, “that support for Kyiv’s fight against Russia’s invasion would never again be as high as it was a few months ago.”

“Even in Europe, Ukraine is an increasingly divisive issue,” he continues. “Voters in Slovakia handed a victory to Robert Fico, a former prime minister sympathetic to Russia. A vicious election campaign in Poland, one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies, has emphasized strains with Kyiv.”

Another constituency that is showing signs of fatigue is the American public. A poll from the Eurasia Group Foundation showed that 58% of Americans think the U.S. should push for a negotiated end to the war.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation, and columnist James Carden wrote in Responsible Statecraft this week that Biden might react to these shifting domestic and global dynamics, arguing that the president would be wise to take his cue from the public and begin the “the long, arduous journey” towards a diplomatic solution.

“While the seeming shift in public opinion is an important one and should signal to the administration that the time has come to pursue negotiations,” they write, “it is clear that those whose opinions matter most — in Kiev, Moscow, and Washington — aren't terribly interested in doing so.”

In other diplomatic news related to the war in Ukraine:

—Vladimir Putin met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, in what was the Russian president’s first trip outside of the former Soviet Union this year. The meeting took place against the backdrop of war raging in the Middle East, with both leaders calling for an end to hostilities. During his speech, Putin talked up his relationship with Xi and touted the Belt and Road initiative, saying that it was a plan “aimed at creating more equitable, multipolar world relations.”

—The West’s reaction to the violence in Israel and Gaza has underscored the Global South’s reluctance to back the Western effort in Ukraine, according to the Financial Times.

“Western support for Israel’s assault on Gaza has poisoned efforts to build consensus with significant developing countries on condemning Russia’s war against Ukraine, officials and diplomats have warned,” the FT reports.

“We have definitely lost the battle in the Global South,” an unnamed senior G7 diplomat told FT. “All the work we have done with the Global South [over Ukraine] has been lost . . . Forget about rules, forget about world order. They won’t ever listen to us again.” The diplomat went on to say that the West will lose all “credibility” because of its hypocritical reaction to the two wars. The report cited, for example, the West pressuring the Global South to condemn Russia’s violations of international law while not reacting in the same way to Israel restricting Gazans access to water, gas, and electricity.

—The war in the Middle East is an opportunity for Washington to work with Russia and China to avoid escalation, say the Quincy Institute’s George Beebe and Anatol Lieven. Given the hostility between the nations, this will be no easy task, but the circumstances dictate that the Biden administration must pursue diplomatic channels. “It will require opening a high-level channel of communication between senior Biden administration officials and the Kremlin to discuss the crisis, coupled with an implicit signal that Washington is willing to address some concrete Russian concerns about the U.S. military’s role in Syria and about the need for rekindling Israel-Palestine diplomacy,” Beebe and Lieven write in RS. “By contrast, stiff-arming Chinese and Russian involvement would only incentivize their opposition to U.S. policies. And if there’s one thing Washington does not need in this crisis, it is yet more parties intent on exploiting instability.”

U.S. State Department news:

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller spoke about how the lack of the House Speaker might affect the administration's plans for more funding.

"We have made clear that we stand by Israel, just as we stand by Ukraine. They are two democracies defending themselves from attacks from outside," he said. "And so as we do everything we can as an Executive Branch, there is a time when we’re going to need to go to Congress for more assistance, and it would be nice to have a functioning partner in that regard."

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